Preview: Newcastle v Gloucester

Date published: September 27 2013

Experienced international Mike Blair returns to Newcastle's starting line-up for this Sunday's meeting with Gloucester at Kingston Park.

Experienced international Mike Blair returns to Newcastle's starting line-up for this Sunday's Premiership clash with Gloucester at Kingston Park.

The Falcons nine, who joined the club in the off-season, is one of four changes to the side that locked horns with Leicester Tigers last weekend.

Blair replaces Warren Fury, while there is a new-look front-row with hooker Matt Thompson and tighthead Oliver Tomaszczyk getting the nod alongside Franck Montanella. Ally Hogg starts at eight in place of Chris York, who is on the bench.

Head coach Peter Russell is relishing this weekend's tussle with the Cherry and Whites, a side who travel to the North East on the back of their last gasp victory over Northampton Saints.

“We are very much looking forward to the visit of Gloucester, and I know the boys are itching to bounce back from the Leicester game,” he said.

“We didn't front up last week, and it's time for the boys to redeem themselves against a talented Gloucester side.

“They [Gloucester] can move the ball from side to side at speed, and they have quality throughout their squad. They have leaders across the backline and good decision makers – I know we've got our work cut out, but I know that we're up for the scrap.”

Meanwhile, Gloucester boss Nigel Davies makes four changes to his line-up for Sunday.

Jonny May gets his first start of the season on the left wing. James Simpson-Daniel moves across to the right wing with Charlie Sharples named on the bench for the away game.

The other changes are in the pack with Shaun Knight, Will James and Ben Morgan all coming into the line-up. Knight and James are also making their first starts of the season.

The Falcons have made a decent start to their return to the Aviva Premiership, and their impressive home record against Gloucester in recent times means that Davies is expecting a tough afternoon.

“They're a well drilled team, very well organised and they'll always expect to get their results up there. They're playing at home, and they'll look to build a lead and put pressure on us,” he said.

“Historically, they've done exceptionally well against Gloucester. I've no doubt that they'll target this as a win game for them.

“We've been able to analyse their first three games, and that tells us certain things. But they're a very difficult side to play against and, if you get it wrong, they'll hurt you.”

Form: Newcastle Falcons' only win from the opening three rounds of Aviva Premiership Rugby was 15-14 at Sale in round 2. The Falcons recent record at Kingston Park in all competitions is a disappointing won two lost three. Newcastle are yet to score a try this season – only one other team has begun a Premiership season without a try in their first three games – Leicester in 2009/10. Gloucester Rugby's 26-24 last gasp win over Northampton on Saturday ended a three game losing streak. Gloucester have not won away from home since they visited Northampton in early February – their only away win in the Premiership since late September 2012. The Falcons have won their last two encounters with Gloucester whilst the visitors have not won in the Premiership at Kingston Park since 23rd December 2007.

The teams:

Newcastle: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Adam Powell, 12 James Fitzpatrick, 11 Tom Catterick, 10 Rory Clegg, 9 Mike Blair, 8 Ally Hogg, 7 Will Welch (c), 6 Mark Wilson, 5 Dom Barrow, 4 Carlo del Fava, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 2 Matt Thompson, 1 Franck Montanella.
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Rob Vickers, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Scott MacLeod, 20 Chris York, 21 Warren Fury, 22 Phil Godman, 23 Alex Crockett.

Gloucester: 15 Rob Cook, 14 James Simpson-Daniel, 13 Henry Trinder, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Jonny May, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 Will James, 4 Tom Savage (capt), 3 Shaun Knight, 2 Darren Dawidiuk, 1 Dan Murphy.
Replacements: 16 Koree Britton, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Rupert Harden, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Mike Tindall, 23 Charlie Sharples.

Date: Sunday, September 29
Kick-off: 15:00 BST
Venue: Kingston Park
Referee: Andrew Small
Assistant referees: Robin Goodliffe, Paul Dix
Television match official: Trevor Fisher
Timekeeper: David Hudson
Assessor: Christopher White